Saturday, June 28, 2014

Seven deadly sins of Agile

In theology, a deadly sin is believed to destroy the life of grace and charity within a person and thus creates the threat of eternal damnation. The "seven deadly sins" are not discrete from other sins, but are considered to be the origin of others.

There are a lot of things you can do wrong as an agile organization.
Many impediments are easy to resolve once you are aware. Some, however, may brickwall your team and will sooner or later kill your project - or maybe even your company!

Here is a list of seven potential agile "deadly sins" which can become the root cause of an insurmountable pile of impediments:

1 - Not having any problems

Every organization has problems. In fact, every person has problems: Nobody is perfect.
Not having a keen view for improvement potential will cause the team's velocity to stagnate. Once you stagnate, the first big hitter will devastate your output capacity.
Hyperproductive teams don't get to this stage because they are able to avoid all problems, but because they spot them early and deal with them effectively.

2 - Not tolerting failure

It is nice to work in an environment where everything can be anticipated well in advance. In this case, agile really isn't the best way to go. Reality usually looks different: work includes uncertainty and there is always a looming risk of missing vital information.
Catching such failures fast makes adjustment easy. Hiding small failures will result in big failures.

3 - Lack of trust

If I make a mistake, I can be sure that you will not use it to report my weakness to management, but you will simply correct it - preferably with feedback, so that I may learn for the future.
Unless we are a mutual safety net, catching each other fast and smooth, failure will be painful. And unless we can rely on painless failure, we can't take the risks we must take in order to deliver high value at high velocity.

4 - Pride

Agile thrives when every team member contributes to the best of their ability.
It is OK to have someone who has more ability than the rest, but it should be made that person's primary responsibility to get the rest of the team up to speed. Tolerating any form of primadonna antics will stifle the growth of the team. It will also pose the project at tremendous risk if this person becomes unavailable.

5 - Lack of automation

Doing simple things is often quicker manually than automated.  Unfortunately, a million simple things are still a lot.
Time saved by not automating often comes at the price of decreasing sustainability and future velocity!

6 - Lack of ownership

Agile products become great when everyone on the team cares. A team developing a product "for the product owner" with a low level of engagement will damage or even kill the product in the long term!

7 - Lack of focus

Agile projects become legends when the entire team is focused on delivering one product with maximum value.
It is very easy to lose this focus, for example by diluting the product vision, by overemphasizing internal practices, by having too much turnover in the team. In any case, the result will be a dissatisfied customer.

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